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Discuss How a) Expectancy Theory and B) Equity Theory Can Explain Motivation at Work.

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Discuss how a) expectancy theory and b) equity theory can explain motivation at work.

Motivation is the cognitive decision-making process through which goal-directed behavior is initiated, energized, directed, and maintained (Buchanan & Huczynski, 2010, p. 267) There are two types of theories that attempt to explain motivation at work – process theories and content theories. Content theories of motivation focus on goals that motivate employees while process theories focus on how employees make choices with respect to their goals (Buchanan & Huczynski, 2010). This essay will outline how two process theories, Equity theory and Expectancy theory, explain motivation at work.

Equity theory explains motivation as a drive towards reducing perceived inequity. We make judgments on the level of inequity by comparing our rewards and contributions with the outputs and inputs of others (1963,1965, Adams, cited in Buchanan & Huczynski, 2010, p. 272). Inequity happens when employees get either more or less then they think they deserve (Buchanan & Huczynski, 2010, p. 271). Sweeney (1990, citied in Buchanan & Huczynski, 2010,p. 273) argued that perceived equity leads to greater job satisfaction and organizational commitment.

In contrast, perception of unfairness leads to tension, which motivates the individual to resolve it (Buchanan Huczynski, 2010,p. 271). Adams (1963,1965, cited in Buchanan & Huczynski, 2010, p. 271) supposed that employees respond differently to «over reward» and «under reward». This is best illustrated through an example. Lets imagine Bill and Mary who work in the same firm and have identical positions. Bill earns £100 per 8 hours working day. Mary works the same number of hours but receives £80. Bill feels guilty since he gains more rewards for the same work. Bill is motivated to compensate this by altering his inputs e.g. staying extra hour or completing extra duties. Evidence from laboratory research confirms that people who are overpaid reduce their perceived inequality by working harder (Buchanan & Huczynski, 2010, p. 272). On opposite, Mary perceives unfair treatment. Mary may pursue various strategies to reduce inequity. If there is little tension she can tolerate to inequity or compare with somebody else, if tension is extreme she can leave the organization. Other strategic options propose altering outcomes through claiming a pay rise, adjusting inputs by working less hard, altering Bill’s inputs or outputs through leaving him difficult duties or asking manager to cut his pay. In general, the theory can’t predict which strategy an individual will peruse due to individual differences in tolerate levels (Buchanan & Huczynski, 2010).

Equity theory struggles to explain motivation due to difficulties in measuring equity ratio. Firstly, it involves considering variables that depend on personal perceptions and timescale, and are hard to figure out (Buchanan & Huczynski, 2010). Secondly, there could be a bias in comparisons between workers as some compare their situations with colleagues, while others look at people in different organizations, sectors and countries (Buchanan & Huczynski, 2010). In addition, equity theory fails to explain motivation in capitalist economies where colleagues may perceive equitable treatment from employing organization but unfair one in contrast to senior individuals, who gain more wealth, influence and power (Buchanan & Huczynski, 2010, p. 273).

Motivation at work can also be explained using Expectancy theory. The theory presumes that individuals choose to behave in one way over another, if they believe that certain action will assist in achieving desired outcome. According to expectancy theory, motivation depends on three variables: the valence of rewards, the expectancy that effort will lead to good performance, and the instrumentality of performance in producing valued rewards (Buchanan & Huczynski, 2010, p. 273).

The force of motivation is calculated by multiplying perceived values of valence, instrumentality and expectance (Buchanan & Huczynski, 2010). If one of these variables equals to zero, the force of motivation will be zero (Buchanan & Huczynski, 2010, p, 274). Imagine your parents have offered you £1000 for cleaning the kitchen. With sufficient effort you can easily complete the task and you perceive £1000 to be a valuable sum. Despite this, you are not motivated since you know that your parents will never pay £1000 for cleaning. Overall, in spite of high valiance and expectancy values, the force of motivation will be zero because instrumentality is zero. Only when all three of the terms are positive and high will the motivating force will be strong (Buchanan & Huczynski, 2010, p. 274). Consequently, motivated worker is the one, who believes that effort will lead to good performance, which in turn will results in gaining valued rewards. Differences in individual motivation and behavior can be explained through expectancy theory (Buchanan & Huczynski, 2010, p. 275) in as much as the value of each variable is determined by personal perceptions.

Nonetheless, expectancy theory has limitations. It relies on the assumption that behavior is rational and motives are well known (Buchanan & Huczynski, 2010). In reality, human decision-making is not always conscious and does not follow particular model. Furthermore it is hard to put values on valence, instrumentality or expectancy since they are subjective and individually perceived.

In conclusion, I would like to say that each theory explains motivation at work up to a certain extent. Both theories use perceived variables in calculating motivation, which are unique for every worker. In case these variables are misunderstood, motivation may be explained incorrectly. As far as you have correct data, your judgments will be valuable. This means equity and expectancy theories can fail to explain motivation in groups where understanding perceptions of everyone is difficult. Also factors such as organizational culture, work practices, reward system and internal communication vary from business to business and in particular settings certain theory may give better explanation of motivation than other. After all, explaining motivation at work is a challenging task as human behavior is not always rational and may not follow any theory or can represent a combination of theories.

References

Buchanan, D.A & Huczynski, D. A. (2010). Organisational Behaviour, 7th ed. Essex, United Kingdom: Pearson Eduication Limited.

References: Buchanan, D.A & Huczynski, D. A. (2010). Organisational Behaviour, 7th ed. Essex, United Kingdom: Pearson Eduication Limited.

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